Election 2010: Tom Tancredo

Listen Now

The race for governor has had some real plot twists including the arrival of Tom Tancredo. The former Republican congressman from Denver left the GOP to get on the ballot. He’s now on the American Constitution Party ticket. Tancredo faces Republican Dan Maes (Hear our conversation with Maes October 22). Democrat John Hickenlooper also has his hat in the ring. We talked with him Wednesday. We talk now with Tom Tancredo as we cover Election 2010.

Interview reported and produced by Michelle P. Fultcher


Colorado Matters

Election 2010 Interview with Tom Tancredo

October 21, 2010


Tom Tancredo, thank you for being with us.

TOM TANCREDO, American Constitution Party Candidate for Colorado Governor:

A pleasure. I enjoy this every time.

Warner: And we are starting these interviews with the same, somewhat grim, picture. The state made up more than about $4 billion in budget shortfalls since the recession. It looks like another $1.25 billion or so will be needed in the next year and a half. School spending has already been cut. State employees have taken furloughs. There’s talk now of cutting people off the Medicaid rolls, raising tuition at some state colleges by up to 25%.

With all that, why do you want to be governor now?

Tancredo: Why am I chasing this car? What would happen if I actually caught it? Is that it?

Well, because of those challenges. Because I have a feeling that I know how they’ll be addressed if John Hickenlooper is the governor and I certainly don’t want that to happen. So I am in the race.

Warner: We’ll explore the approach and the differences in the coming hour. Let’s talk a little bit about what your style would be as governor. And I want to play some tape of you earlier this year at the Tea Party convention in Nashville, Tennessee.

Tancredo: Okay.

(tape from Tea Party Convention)

Tancredo: And then something really odd happened, most because I think we do not have a civics literacy test before people can vote in this country.


Tancredo: People who could not even spell the word “vote,” or say it in English--


Tancredo: --put a committed socialist ideologue in the White House. Name is Barack Hussein Obama.

(tape ends)

Warner: You are known by many as somewhat of a firebrand. When you were a Republican congressman, President Bush’s key political advisor once told you to never darken the door of the White House again.

Tancredo: He sure did. Yeah.

Warner: There were all kinds of feathers ruffled about comments you made about Miami being like a Third World city. If you’re elected, you’re going to be dealing with 100 state legislators. At this point, none from your political party, and certainly with the Obama Administration.

In many ways, the job of governor is dealing with groups of people, with compromise. Do you have the temperament for this job?

Tancredo: I understand that, you know, and I’ll tell you that I am more confrontational than I am-- than I guess I’d call myself a compromiser. And I have to tell you this, I don’t think that it gets you that far, this compromise. And especially in the situation we are in with the budget cuts that have to occur.

We’re going to be dealing with a lot of problems that are generated by this fiscal crisis and a lot of groups will oppose us that are enormously powerful and you’re going to have to actually confront them and explain that there is a mood in the state that will, I think, support my attempt to reform it. And if the legislature doesn’t go along with it, doesn’t see the importance of it, then, of course, I have an option. The option is to go to the people.

I have always operated on the idea that people do tend to see the light when they feel the heat and that on some of these issues there’s no other way around it. I don’t-- you have to apply the heat.

Some things, absolutely, will come by-- come about as a result of compromise. But on the big issues, it’s going to be tough and if the legislature recognizes that there is this pressure building out here, we’ll be able to compromise.

Warner: In each of these conversations we are including a question from a member of our Public Insight Network. So this is Drew Bartlett of Denver on the subject of unemployment. He was laid off from his IT job last year. He’s been making some money here and there as a consultant and he has this question.


My question is, what are you going to do to stimulate job growth in fields of work such as technology where highly qualified candidates such as myself are looking for good-paying jobs?

Warner: Now we’d like to note that his job in IT was actually for a construction company and that, of course, is one of the hardest hit industries in this state. So, what is Tom Tancredo’s plan for adding jobs in Colorado?

Tancredo: Okay. Now the first thing we should do is learn from history what not to do. We are in the midst of a recession that has really crippled business and essentially our entire economy.

Last year, with that recession being as severe as it was, the state legislature and the governor increased taxes and fees. They stole from every single fund they could get their hands on, cash fund, and they found that they had to raise money again.

It is exactly the wrong thing to do. You should never increase taxes in the midst of a recession. You need to do things that spur the economy on and that means just do the opposite. You need to actually reduce taxes and that’s a scary thing when you look at a budget, as you just identified and just projected to be over $1 billion in deficit.

But it is imperative that we take this opportunity and it really does look that way to me. I mean, it’s a-- you know, the Chinese symbol for opportunity and for a problem is the same symbol. It can be a great opportunity for us to go into government, go into the bowels of government, if you want to think of it that way, and make the kind of cuts that are necessary for us and in order to put us back in a healthy-- path to a healthier economy.

The next thing you have to think of is the regulatory burden that has been placed on businesses in this state, again by this governor and by the legislature. There is a bias — and it is one that is not hidden. The governor has stated it clearly, he has a bias against the extractive industries, mining industries, coal, gas and oil, would like to see them essentially go away.

Warner: Hasn’t he always said that there’s a place for it?

Tancredo: Well, he’s saying it more often now than he did originally when he described his need for a-- or desire for a green energy economy. I think he’s finally coming to the conclusion that there’s very little energy in a green energy economy and very few jobs. And so now I think there’s sort of a remorse that he is identifying that they’ve done so much to drive oil and gas industries, companies out of the state.

Warner: On making cuts to government, what does that look like under a Tancredo administration?

Tancredo: Here’s what it looks like. Let’s start with Medicaid. In 2007 the state legislature increased the number of things for which Medicaid would be responsible for paying. They reduced the threshold for eligibility for Medicaid. There has never been an increase in co-pay in I don’t know how many years. It has not, certainly, reflected any sort of inflation.

Today you can be, essentially, cash-rich but income-poor and still be eligible for Medicaid. And what happened since 2007 is it doubled. Now, that can’t all be attributed to the changes that the state legislature made, the increases in offerings, but it certainly was a significant part of that.

We have to-- if we can just do this, if we can just undo those changes, go back to the 2000 level of support for Medicaid, that’s a $250 million savings. How many people, exactly who they are, I don’t know, but we cannot continue to-- You know, you only have so many things.

Here’s the deal, really. It’s just like the federal government. Everybody wants to talk about discretionary spending and what they’re going to do with it, how much they’re going to cut it. So you hear that all the time.

It’s the same in Colorado, except that there’s nothing there. There’s hardly anything in that discretionary budget.

Warner: So much of the budget is dictated by things like Medicaid.

Tancredo: That’s right.

Warner: And also-- well, let’s talk about the other big chunks. So you’ve got education.

Tancredo: Education.

Warner: And you’ve got prisons.

Tancredo: And transportation. These are the major-- these are the huge things that consume so much of the budget that the attempts to use it for other-- to do other things always has to come out of, when we get down to the rub like this, it has to come out of those budgets.

And they’re mandated, to a large extent. And, you know, the federal government mandates so much in terms of Medicaid.

We are mandated by actions the state has taken. For instance, Amendment 23.

Warner: For education, K through 12.

Tancredo: For education.

Warner: What would you do there?

Tancredo: Repeal it.

Warner: Repeal 23.

Tancredo: Yeah, certainly try. I mean, I can’t do it unilaterally, of course--
Warner: Yeah.

Tancredo: But, yes, I would definitely try to repeal it.

Warner: Would you do that right away?

Tancredo: I would do it as soon as possible. If the legislature wouldn’t put on it as a referendum, then we would have to go to the people through an initiative process. But I would first try, of course, the referendum. It’s a lot easier and a lot cheaper.

But, yeah, you could do it in the next election. I mean, in the off year, you can do that, because TABOR-- the law allows any TABOR-related issue to come up annually.

So we can’t have these mandates. You just can’t have this constant source of, well, let’s do this above everything else. Something’s got to give.

Warner: If you were able to get Amendment 23 out of the constitution, what would the cuts look like to education?

Tancredo: Well, if we were to begin the process of reforming PERA--

Warner: We should say this is the Public Employees Retirement.

Tancredo: Yes, Public Employees Retirement. It is a lavish retirement system. So you have to change that and it does reduce costs dramatically for the state, tens of millions of dollars every year for the state. It also reduces costs for the local school district, $46 million a year we could save, local districts could save.
The way you change it is you go from a-- for new hires. Now, I have to emphasize this, because I get all these emails from people saying, “The union told me to send you an email and essentially tell you to go to hell because you are going to take away my PERA.” And I keep saying, “No, for people who in the system today, either retired or you are a public employee that is serviced by PERA, nothing will change.” But for new hires, you have to go from a defined benefit to a defined contribution.

Warner: And what does that change mean, practically, economically, for new hires?

Tancredo: It would mean that you-- today, you know, you can look at a schedule and say, okay, if I stay X number of years and make X number of dollars, here’s what I will get at the end, guaranteed.

Well, you would not have that guarantee amount at the end. You would have to say, I hope this builds at a certain rate that makes it a viable retirement plan. If you handle it correctly, it can actually be a better plan. It’s possible, depending on the options that become available to you.

We can’t give people — I am totally opposed to saying, take your PERA contribution and invest it in IPOs or something.

Warner: Something risky.

Tancredo: Any risky thing. No. It would be controlled. The federal government has a plan similar for member-- for federal employees. You contribute a certain amount of money. The federal government matches it and it can go into one of five different funds. They’re all very conservative and all of them would have outdone the Social Security return that anybody had and it is imperative that we do it.

All the people who are presently on PERA can be truly jeopardized if we don’t do something to deal with the $40 billion-- $30 billion to $40 billion unfunded liability.

Warner: PERA certainly affects the teachers. Are there changes or reforms to education beyond that and beyond the repeal of Amendment 23 that you would push for?

Tancredo: Absolutely. I am a complete and total supporter of the concept of school choice. The idea that a government school system can provide the quality of education necessary for every student in it, no matter how much money you put into it, no matter how much, it simply does not work.

Denver is the highest-cost school district in the state and has the worst record that you can imagine, with almost 50% dropout rate. It’s hard to claim that anything there is happening of great value for the amount of money that we’re putting into it.

And what we’ve seen year after year after year after year after year is the claim by the educrats that that will solve the problem, just more money into the system. It doesn’t. After a certain point, there is no correlation between the amount of money you put into the system and the quality of education that comes out.

Warner: So, would any child in any district in the state have the option for a voucher?

Tancredo: I would certainly start with the school districts and schools themselves that are failing and Denver, of course, would be on the top of the list as a failed district. So, I believe every school child in the city of Denver would be eligible for a voucher under the plan I’d like to put forward.

Warner: Is there a capacity in the private school market for that?

Tancredo: Well, we’d see. People say, well, you can’t do this because there’s no infrastructure out there for that many people, you know, leaving the schools. It’d be like telling Henry Ford. You can’t make this car. There are no roads, what do you mean? Well, of course, those all develop and they develop quite quickly to meet a huge demand.

Warner: Do you risk inconsistency? I mean, bringing people into the fold who aren’t in it for the right reasons or don’t provide a quality education?

Tancredo: Sure.

Warner: Isn’t there a whole new kind of regulatory framework there for all these new actors?

Tancredo: All you need is what we’ve got. I mean, there’s a state standard, you know, the CSAP and you just say, you have to meet the standard, that’s all. If they don’t do it, they don’t get funded.

Warner: I’d like to zoom in on more cuts. So we’ve talked so far about education. We’ve talked about PERA. But you would also seek cuts across departments.

Tancredo: I would.

Warner: From your department heads.
Tancredo: That’s exactly right. When I was serving in the Reagan Administration in the U.S. Department of Education, 1981 through whatever it was, ‘92, I guess. The first year, every agency except for Defense was told that they had to reduce their budget by 10%. And each secretary told us all, you know, this will be your task. You go down into your agency, your part of the Department of Education, and you find the cuts that you need to make there.

The secretary doesn’t make the cut. It just-- he tells you, go find it and what programs you want-- that you feel are impossible to cut, you don’t. You’re going to have to, then, look farther and deeper for other ones.

But it took us about two months, really, to accomplish the task with a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth by the bureaucrats, but, indeed, we did it — 10%.

And the next year OMB came back, David Stockman, and he said, that was good. Do that again. And so we had two years where we went through 10% cuts in the agencies. We survived. Everybody did. No blood in the streets.

Warner: What would ask for of the departments?

Tancredo: Same thing.

Warner: Same thing? 10% or 20%?

Tancredo: Ten-- No, no 10%.

Warner: Okay.

Tancredo: And that would be with the exclusion of departments that deal with public safety. Don’t get me wrong. This is not going to solve the budget, in and of itself. I mean, it would be like-- for instance, in education, you’d be talking more about the agency itself rather than the money that we send to school districts. It’s the agency itself.

Warner: The state administration.

Tancredo: The state administration. So it’s not-- I’m not talking about a huge amount of money that we’re saving there. It’s just one part of a major operation that I think we have to go through.

Warner: What would that mean for state services, one? And two, would that, do you think, result in layoffs of state employees?

Tancredo: Well, yeah, I do think it would result in layoffs. I don’t know how you achieve them otherwise. The federal government was much the same when we did that.

Warner: What does that mean, say, at the Department of Motor Vehicles when I’m getting a license plate or a driver’s license? What does that look like?

Tancredo: Well, it depends upon what you, as the head of the Department of Revenue would come back and tell me. But I cannot tell you, you know, if it means 10 people or 100 or if it means any people. It could be other areas that you find that you can cut.

Warner: Let’s go back to something you brought up in the beginning of the conversation about the budget and that is, loosening the recent or more recent restrictions on oil and gas drilling.

The state has reported a major increase in drilling permits this year over last and that is especially true in northern Colorado, where there’s a new oil field. According to the Fort Collins Coloradoan, more than 100 permits have been issued in that area alone this year. Forty more are under consideration.

Are oil and gas companies really being stymied by these new rules?

Tancredo: Let me tell you-- Well, I mean, that’s true and we are extremely pleased by the fact that there’s been an increase. Just think of what there would be-- now, now, you hear that and you see that and then you also know that there-- there was a report back a while ago that identified what they believed about 20,000 jobs had left the state as a result of the regulations that were put in place. That’s a guesstimate. I’m trying to remember for sure if that was it. I think that was the number. At any rate--

Warner: And the economy is in the background here, playing a role, as well. I mean, that can’t be ignored in the equation.

Tancredo: Well, yeah. Well, it certainly is, but not in the oil and gas industry. I mean, they would not be affected by the economy to the extent that other areas would, just because the demand is still very high for their products.

Warner: This leads to the question of whether you would roll back certain pieces of legislation that the previous administration, the Ritter administration, advanced in terms of renewable energy or whether you would continue down that path in some capacity.

Tancredo: No, the only-- where here’s what I really don’t-- would not pursue, I’ll put it that way, is any sort of attempt upon the part of the state government to determine winners and losers in that process.

I do not believe that we should be giving tax credits to companies in particular industries, in this case, wind and solar. The marketplace is far better designed to determine the viability of any of these various companies or industries, in and of themselves.

The only thing that I certainly agree is-- on is that we need a regulatory scheme. You do. You have to have it. I mean, I’m not going to ask oil and gas-- I’m not going to tell the oil and gas industries, hey, come on in, baby, this land’s available for raping.

You know, they’re going to have to do their due diligence. They’re going to have to conduct their business in a way that is the least intrusive in terms of what happens to the environment. We expect that of them. But, on the other hand, I’m not going to make life any more difficult than I absolutely have to for those companies.

And in the area of solar and wind, I’ve got no bias against them except they really are not there yet, I guess is one way to say it. And we don’t know when they will be, but the marketplace is much better to determine that than the governor.

Warner: A couple of questions about the political landscape here, Tom Tancredo. You left the Republican Party. You saw a very weak candidate running for governor and joined the American Constitution Party to run and I want to ask you a bit about their platform.

One is that the ACP’s plank on congressional reform says — I’m quoting here — “We seek to abolish congressional pensions.” I’m curious to know if you’re getting one.

Tancredo: I am and I told them, when I joined the party, look, you know, you recognize that I’m here-- we had this interesting discussion and it deals with all these issues of the party platform. And I said-- they asked me something about, are you going to be a loyal Constitution Party member? And I said, I don’t know what you mean by that, but, you know, considering the fact that I have just left the Republican Party, I don’t know what that means to you, but I’m telling you the answer is probably no. If you’re thinking I’m doing this as some sort of philosophical metamorphosis that I’ve gone through in order to become a Constitution Party candidate and that’s simply not true.

I said, we each know why we’re here. I’m here because you have ballot access. You’re here because I will get you more votes than you’ve ever had before. That’s the end of the story. All the rest of this stuff is irrelevant. I am--

Warner: Well, let me ask this.

Tancredo: Yeah?

Warner: Do they expect something from you in return?

Tancredo: I have no idea. After what I just described, I hope not. They, pretty much, agreed that I was right. We each knew why the other person was there, the other entity was there, and that was it. I mean, they are going to get something. They’re going to get more votes than they have ever received before and maybe go into major party status in this state, which I think they’d love.

Warner: That would be if you get at least 10% of the vote, correct?

Tancredo: Yeah.

Warner: I mean, just philosophically, then, would you have joined the Green Party for ballot access?

Tancredo: No, no, of course not. I mean, there has to be some degree of compatibility with the whole thing and most of the things in there don’t deal with state-related-- they’re not state related. They’re almost all federal.

They talk about the importance of going back to the federal constitution for so many things. And, you know, that’s not the worst idea in the world. But I could not do-- of course not, go to a Green Party. And, well, number one. Number two, they certainly would not allow me to, I’m sure, if I attempted it. But no, I had no, you know, desire to do that.

Warner: Just go down a quick list for me. Say yea or nay. So the ACP wants to get rid of the direct election of U.S. senators.

Tancredo: I don’t care. (laughter)

Warner: Okay, but that’s not a yea--?

Tancredo: It goes back to-- no, you know what, it would be fine with me, to tell you the truth. It goes back to the time in which they were appointed by the states. Hey, that’s not the worst situation, I think, you could possibly have.

None of these are burning issues for me. They are not consequential, you know what I mean?

Warner: Are you saying--

Tancredo: You can weigh they things, you can look at them, you-- yeah, good idea, bad idea. But they’re nothing that I am particularly involved with or interested in.

Warner: Okay. Same with eliminating the Department of Education?

Tancredo: Yeah. I’m-- again, believe me, I’ve said that a million times. You know, that’s fine with me. I ran the regional office. We went from about 222 people when I first got there, down to about 60 when I left and I’d always give a speech and I’d say, you know, we’ve eliminated 80% of the staff that were here in the regional office. Has anybody been able to tell the difference? And I never heard a single person ever say to me, ah, yes, the service from the regional office has been lousy.

And I always said, then, if we went to zero, you’d never know the difference and you wouldn’t. The Department of Education has never educated a single child.

So I’ve got no problem with that one. Again, they’re nothing I would be dealing with as a governor, so I just get interested. I don’t deal with them and don’t think about them and I really don’t care.

Warner: The state GOP chairman Dick Wadhams, when you made this decision, said you basically ensured that Democrat John Hickenlooper would win the election by dividing the vote between you and Dan Maes. What do you think?

Tancredo: Yeah. Well, as things play out, if Dan is at 14%, which is the last I saw, anyway, I’m at 36%, the governor is at 44%.

Warner: You mean to say the mayor.

Tancredo: I’m sorry, the mayor is at 44%, who’s dividing the vote? If I got out of the race, Dan, I don’t think, would get my 30-some-percent of the vote, for obvious reasons. He’s lost votes that had nothing to do with my entry into the race. It’s because of what happened with him.

On the other hand, if he gets out, I will get some of those votes. I don’t-- you know, some people will still be quite exercised over all that has gone on. But I have a much better chance of winning the election with him out than he does with me out.

So, the question becomes, who’s splitting the vote? What vote is there to split when you’re down at 14% for the Republican candidate?

Warner: Will you ask him to get out again?

Tancredo: Well, we just-- I did that, you know, just a week ago or so.

Warner: Yeah, just-- Yeah, but again?

Tancredo: No.

Warner: No?

Tancredo: No, I don’t-- No, probably not. I don’t think-- I asked him at the time if it would be a productive use of our time just to get together. He said, yes, but it turned out to be anything but that.

Warner: If you’re elected, would you change back to the Republican Party?

Tancredo: Not necessarily. There’s no purpose in it. Unless I could see some benefit to the state in doing so, no, probably not, because I’m going to govern-- I am the same person that I was, the day before I changed from a Republican to Constitution Party.

Warner: I mean--

Tancredo: As I said, it wasn’t any-- it wasn’t a philosophical metamorphosis that I went through. I had to do it in a very-- it was just a practical situation. I couldn’t run as a Republican. They wanted a candidate that could get them votes. I wanted ballot access. It was a symbiotic relationship.

Warner: Does-- because of the perception of you that’s held by many — I’m not going to say most, but the perception people have of you as a kind of a firebrand, does Colorado get hurt in some way by electing Tom Tancredo? Is there a perception of the state that makes people wary of moving here or doing business here or--?

Tancredo: Well, I guess we’ll see. What can I tell you? I don’t-- I believe that there are governors that I admire greatly and would like to emulate. One is Chris Christie in New Jersey. The other is, of course, Jan Brewer in Arizona. I hope there’ll be others. I hope there’ll be other governors that I can work with and that will join me in what I always call a 10th Amendment revolution, and--

Warner: The power of the states.

Tancredo: Yeah, that’s right. Confronting the federal government on the kinds of-- because of the incursions into state sovereignty that I see all the time. So--

Warner: But on that-- yeah, on that perception question?

Tancredo: Well, I think, perhaps, you know, I don’t know for sure, but perhaps this is the time, recognizing where we are, the problems we face in the state, that someone who is more of a firebrand than a compromiser is actually going to get more done.

Warner: Let’s talk about a couple of ballot measures, shall we?

Tancredo: Okay.

Warner: Three proposals on the ballot deal with the state budget and government spending.

Tancredo: Yeah.

Warner: Amendment 60 cuts local property taxes for schools and requires the state to make up the difference. It is, in part, a reversal of a freeze that the current governor put on taxes descending.

Tancredo: On mill levies.

Warner: Mill levies descending, right. Amendment 61 prohibits state and local governments from borrowing money and Prop 101 would, among other things, slash vehicle fees that the governor and the legislature increased last year.

I’m right to say that you support 60, the cuts to property taxes, and 101, the vehicle fees?

Tancredo: Correct, yeah.

Warner: On 101, registration fees would drop to $10 a car. What does that mean for transportation, roads and bridges?

Tancredo: You know, think about it this way. A while back — and now I cannot remember how many years, but the-- about a quarter of the state’s sales tax revenue came from the purchase of automobiles. The various increases that we have seen in registration fees and various other automobile taxes that are called fees has been significant enough, I think, and so do people in the industry, that they have reduced sales. Not just that, of course the recession has got a great deal to do with that.

But you’re in a recession, so you’re not going to be selling as many vehicles as you would have. Now if you add an onerous burden on top of the actual cost of the vehicle, you’re going to certainly reduce some amount. I don’t know how much, but there will be a lot of cars that won’t be sold as a result of that increase and when you do that, you reduce revenues to the state.

Warner: But, I mean-- okay, let’s play that out. So, I mean, I remember when I bought a fairly humble new car. I think I was paying maybe $350 a year and that’s a savings of $300. That doesn’t mean I’m going out and buying another new car because of it.

Tancredo: Well, you may be in that position. But that’s not the only savings that can accrue from that. But, you know what, it does matter to some people. It does matter a lot, to some people.

Even the psychology of it, at the beginning, you know as to whether or not-- recognizing that that’s going to be there every year. You think, you know, can I really afford that now? Can I really afford that extra cost?

And, by the way, you know, each one of these-- Well, let’s back up a minute. None of them are going to pass, okay? These are going to go down in flames. The opposition has $7 million to spend. The proponents, I don’t know what they have, but it probably isn’t $100,000.

Warner: Yes, but they’re probably not delighted you’re saying this.

Tancredo: That’s the way it is. I saw the polls and I guarantee you they’re going down in flames. So, a lot of this discussion is sort of moot.

Warner: Well, let’s-- I mean, if you believe that and you believe this is more academic, let’s make it to the practical. If you’re elected, would you take the addition that the Ritter administration added to registrations away?

Tancredo: Well, I would try. I can’t do that unilaterally.

Warner: Right, with the help-- that’s right, it would obviously need the legislature’s approval.

Tancredo: Yeah, sure.

Warner: But that would be something you’d pursue?

Tancredo: I think I would. I think I certainly would. There’d be other things I would go after first, however, I must admit to you, and one is the business personal property tax. For small business especially, it’s just a killer of a tax. And because it really soaks up jobs like you can’t believe. And so if I had my druthers, I’d go there.

Warner: On transportation, there was a review board that identified, you know, more than $1 billion worth of need in the state. So once-- we started this conversation by talking about how much there is, just to balance the budget, right? Then you’ve got, if you believe the figures, more than $1 billion in transportation needs. How do you begin to pay for that if you also want to lower registration fees? That was--

Tancredo: This is going to tick off a lot of your listeners, but that’s the way it is, (laughter), right? Should 60% of the revenues coming in for transportation go to provide services for 4% of the population? And I’m talking, of course, about FasTracks.

The idea that--

Warner: Which was passed by a popular vote.

Tancredo: That’s right, something we’d have to go back and ask them to rethink, I think, if you want to change that.

But I still just wonder about the fairness of that and whether or not, now, at this point in time in the state’s fiscal history, that we can’t rethink what we did when times were more flush.

Warner: So what would that look like? In other words, saying--

Tancredo: I don’t know. I just don’t know.

Warner: Saying would you dedicate the money you’ve dedicated to FASTER to something else?

Tancredo: Yeah, to bridge and road construction, yeah. There are other things, of course, we can do and have to do. We may have to look toward public private participation in this and that means, yes, tolling in some areas. So it will require a really solid analysis of what you can do in terms of tolling, in terms of alternatives to fixed rail mass transit and what increases you can identify in other areas that could, perhaps, help this whole thing out.

It is one of those things that is imperative that we do because it has so much to do with the economy.

Warner: To immigration, which has been your signature issue for a long time, what kind of state laws might you impose to control illegal immigration or has the state done enough and this is a federal issue?

Tancredo: The state has done quite a bit. They simply have never enforced the laws they passed.

Senate Bill 90 outlaws sanctuary cities. The city of Denver is one. The mayor has operated it that way for all the time he’s been in office, even though he continually claims that is not accurate. And there’s no enforcement, no enforcement of Senate Bill 90.

Warner: I’ll just interject and say that your opponent in this race, the mayor of Denver, says there’s no law on the books in Denver of non-cooperation between police and--

Tancredo: ICE.

Warner: --immigration officials. And they have reported the numbers of reports they’ve made to ICE.

Tancredo: Right.

Warner: For so long, your drum beat has been the federal government has failed, the federal government has failed.

Tancredo: That’s right.

Warner: Are you conveniently changing that argument to say John Hickenlooper has failed, John Hickenlooper has failed and focus locally as a campaign issue, when the failure, as you’ve said so often, is on the federal government’s part?

Tancredo: Because the federal government has failed, it-- the responsibility devolves to the state. That’s exactly what has happened in Arizona. That’s why they’ve passed the bill that they’ve passed. They know that they cannot rely on the federal government to do the job they’re supposed to do. So it becomes a state responsibility.

It is a matter of whether or not we accept that responsibility to protect our own citizens.

Warner: Safe to say you want just better enforcement of the state laws in place?

Tancredo: That’s correct.

Warner: You are not calling for new state laws.

Tancredo: I don’t really think we need-- I mean, I’d-- you know, the Arizona law, it’d be okay, but we really have something very close to that. It’s just a matter of enforcement, really.

And E-Verify — now I would want mandatory E-Verify.

Warner: This is to check at the point of possibly employing someone.

Tancredo: Employment. That’s right.

Warner: Yeah, whether they’re in the country legally.

Tancredo: Exactly. And it is not foolproof, of course. People steal good Social Security numbers, but it goes a long way down that path. And so--

Warner: And there’s been somewhat of a pilot project in Colorado, but it’s not used by all employers.

Tancredo: That’s correct. It’s all voluntary. And the-- but state agencies are supposed to use it for their own employment and for that of the people for-- that they contract with. It’s not done. It has never-- well, we don’t know. I guess I should say we have no idea, because it’s never been audited, really, not in depth. And so the enforcement of those laws and the passage, hopefully, of a mandatory E-Verify, would be, I think, a very positive thing.

When I was in Congress I took an issue, immigration reform, that I felt very strongly about. I took it in when there was no support, absolutely zero support for it, on either side of the aisle.

And I set-- recognizing I could not anything inside the-- in terms of compromise, could not do a thing. I set about on a task and it was go out and speak to as many people as I could throughout the country. I know I did hundreds, hundreds of speeches. And I would go into legislators’ districts and I would explain what needed to be done and why their legislator needed to hear from them about it.

And by the time I left Congress — it took me, now, admittedly 10 years — but it was a bigger issue and a bigger audience I had to play to here and had to actually get on my side. But we ended up in the situation where you had to put your tennis shoes on, run down the House floor and get amendments slapped on to say, by gosh, you’re against illegal immigration somehow, some way, attached to almost any bill passed.

Everything changed because we were able-- the country changed. Now I didn’t individually do that--

Warner: Now, I mean--

Tancredo: --but I had a lot to do with it. And I think we have to do the same thing with the state of Colorado.

Warner: I mean, everything changed, but nothing changed. In other words, the end result of that has not been comprehensive immigration reform.

Tancredo: No, that’s right.

Warner: I mean, people are talking, but what changed?

Tancredo: Well, we’ve got this other thing called the Senate and now you have a Democrat majority in both houses, so you’re right. We had a-- we did run into a little impasse there, but--

Warner: And there will be similar impasses, potentially, if you’ve got a Democratic legislature.

Tancredo: Yeah. Well, we have the ability to change that, too. Look, I will make the case to the people of the state of Colorado, if I have to, through an initiative, if I have to put it on the ballot myself. If we have to bypass the legislature and do it that way, I will do it.

Warner: A little bit now on Amendment 63, which aims to cancel, in Colorado, a key provision of federal healthcare reform and that’s the requirement that people have health insurance. Your position on 63?

Tancredo: I’m totally supportive of it, although I must tell you, I don’t think it’ll have-- what its effect will be, its real, you know, effect on public policy, that’s hard to say. Because, of course, we’re suing the federal government on exactly that issue and so I certainly support that lawsuit and this is, I guess, just a way of saying, yeah, you bet, we’re all for it.

Warner: So let’s explore the philosophy of it. Because what’s behind the idea of an individual mandate is that if everyone is in the pool, everyone in the pool benefits and that if insurance companies are being asked to insure folks and not discriminate based on a preexisting condition, that they have lots of healthy people in the pool who might not otherwise have insurance.
You don’t like the idea of the mandate?

Tancredo: Where in the Constitution of the United States of America is there a provision that says, and, by the way, the federal government will be able to require anybody in this country to buy anything.

Warner: The federal government requires a lot of things, including that you hand a little bit of your paycheck over to Social Security.

Tancredo: It doesn’t require you to buy anything, any commodity of which I am aware, any service of which I am aware. It-- the bizarre concept that the federal government can tell you I want you to buy-- you have to buy this.

Warner: You don’t have to, but there’s a penalty to that.

Tancredo: Exactly. Okay, all right. You don’t have to, but there’s a penalty. No, I--

Warner: How do you-- How does Tom Tancredo--

Tancredo: It’s a strange concept, I think, to say the least.

Warner: How does Tom Tancredo bring more people in the pool? In other words--

Tancredo: I’ll tell you one way to do it, is you allow for the expansion of the number of companies that could actually offer their policy in Colorado. This is going to-- it’s a challenge, because it’s not-- you would have to get the federal government, also, to participate in this-- in relinquishing this kind of monopoly that we place--

Warner: You’re speaking of insurance companies.

Tancredo: Insurance companies. Insurance companies, there are only a certain number that are allowed to offer a policy in Colorado. I cannot buy a policy from a company in Connecticut if it doesn’t meet certain requirements. Well, why? What if I don’t care, I don’t need all of the things that are demanded, required, by any company that comes into this state by the insurance commissioner and the regulatory agency? Let’s allow people to buy insurance from whomever they want.

Warner: You support the legalization of marijuana. Why do you do that?

Tancredo: What I really would like to see here in the state is a great, huge, healthy debate on that very issue. If it were on the ballot, I would almost certainly vote yes, I think, under-- It would depend on the circumstances, but-- And what I mean by that is I believe that there has to be an extremely severe penalty for selling it to minors and allowable to sell it to adults.

Because what you do there is you change the risk/reward ratio dramatically. Because my whole purpose in saying what I say is that I want to take the money out of this, take the money out of the activity that goes to cartels.

And the money is huge. Hence, you see the fight over those drug routes into the United States that cost now Mexicans 30,000 dead. The violence is incredible. The corruption that is endemic in Mexico and now coming into the United States, borders do not stop corruption, not of this level, especially. The amounts are enormous.

So it’s always been ironic to me that most of my conservative friends, especially religious conservatives, which I consider myself to be, are saying, you know, you can’t do this. Don’t do it. And I always say, well, first of all, I’ve got no plans to do it.

I’m not planning to, you know, start a movement to legalize, but I will tell you I don’t see anything wrong with having a debate about this, because I will also tell you that people who are the most opposed to legalization are the cartels, are drug dealers.

Warner: Do you also see it as a new source of revenue for the state?

Tancredo: Oh, sure.

Warner: I mean, there’s a transferring of that money, right?

Tancredo: Yeah, that’s right. Exactly. And you stop funding these gangsters.

Warner: You would not pursue this of your own sort of--?

Tancredo: Well, it’s not on the top of my list, no. But people-- but because I have said in the past and I have voted in Congress on more than one occasion to say that the federal government has absolutely no right to tell a state it can’t do it, it always comes up, because I have taken that position.

Warner: And, of course, it’s come up with the medical marijuana issue, too.

Tancredo: Sure, exactly.

Warner: With that conflict.

Tancredo: But, I mean, it’s not like I thought to myself I want to run for governor in order to legalize marijuana. I’m just telling you how I feel about it and it always enters into this discussion, naturally, because I’m a candidate. So I expect it.

Warner: Let’s wrap up with the question that we’re asking all the candidates. This is going to be a tough job for whomever takes it on. What do you do to relieve stress?

Tancredo: (laughter)

Warner: Where do you go? You know, what does that look like?

Tancredo: I hunt and shoot. For me, it’s a great pastime and relaxation.

Warner: What do you hunt?

Tancredo: Pheasants primarily. Well, I mean, almost anything, but I spend a lot of time pheasant hunting, bird hunting. And I shoot a lot at Kiowa Creek and a number of other clubs, that it’s just clay pigeons, you know. That’s what you’re shooting at. But I find it relaxing and enjoyable.

And that’s it. I don’t play golf. I don’t parasail, I don’t do, any, really of the other stuff, I suppose, that a lot of folks do to relax.

But I do find that getting out, especially with dogs, oh my gosh. It’s the most wonderful. It’s just a-- it is a-- you watch dogs work in the field and you see them doing, you know, what they were born to do and how they react. Sometimes it doesn’t even-- you don’t have to shoot a thing. You just watch the dogs work and, for me, it’s a great relaxation.

Warner: Tom Tancredo, thank you for being with us.

Tancredo: You bet. Thank you for allowing me to join you.